Welcome to the world's leader in aerospace rivets. Here in the countryside, a few kilometres from Toulouse (south west France) the Ateliers de Haute-Garonne (AHG) workshops produce seven million rivets every day out of cylindrical rods of aluminium or titanium - essential to the aircraft assembly of the world’s major aircraft manufacturers.
Stephane Auriol, Executive Director Finance - AHG: "The rivet can be compared to sewing thread on a garment. Sewing thread is used to join two pieces of fabric, whereas the rivet joins two pieces of metal. To provide a good seal, for example, on a Boeing’s wings we have this type, and this type on an Airbus."
Aerospace rivets come in different forms, typically weighing less than one gram, and, when inserted into the holes of the metal sheet, have the particularity of deforming, thus ensuring an optimal fixation. Contrary to what one might think, rivets can be coloured. The blue, violet, orange, or green colour distinguish the chemical composition of the material used. On the manufacturing side, everything starts with a big spool of wire, like this aluminium one here. Stephane Auriol explains, "the wire is fed into the machine, and cut into short lengths to make the stem blanks, which are then introduced into a die. A special tool then preforms the head, and a second finishes the operation; and that’s it - finished."
In slow motion, this is what happens. At normal speed, each machine is capable of producing 400 rivets per minute. Once the heat and surface treatments are finished, the parts are ready for shipment to customers. Last year, the family business achieved a turnover of 42 million euros.